2 Corinthians 10:13-16
But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God has distributed to us…
I. THE FIELD MEASURED OUT FOR THE LABOURS OF THE PREACHERS OF THE GOSPEL.
1. The world. It was impossible for the apostle, with all his impulsive zeal, to go beyond his measure. Not that the world had been left without moral assistance from revelation. In the care of the Father of the spirits of all flesh, all nations have had an interest. The antediluvians enjoyed the benefits of all the revelations which were made in that first age. The long life of the patriarchs secured this. In the truths which were introduced by Noah into the new world, and the additional revelations, his sons were sharers; and that the whole might have been preserved is evident from the fact that many of them still exist. The vocation of Abraham was intended for the instruction of the world (Hebrews 11:10). The Jewish institute was designed for the benefit of the world (1 Kings 8:41-43). To all the world Christ sent His disciples; and to a great part they actually went. The continuance of the zeal of the first ages would have left no "regions beyond."
2. Why, then, do we wonder at the mysteries of Providence, in leaving so many of our race to live without the gospel? God has not left them, but they have been left by their more highly favoured fellow-men. It is a mystery, not of Divine reprobation, but of human unfeelingness. The Jewish and Christian Churches, in succession, have incurred the guilt of unfaithfulness. If any person say this only shifts the difficulty, we may allow it. But why should we single this out as a peculiar mystery? Has not God made man dependent upon man in everything? Christians are the light of the world; and if we refuse to hold forth the word of life, then are we verily guilty concerning our brother.
II. THE MEANS BY WHICH THOSE LABOURS WERE DIRECTED.
1. The "measure of the rule" refers to the line which marked out the racecourses, or that which was used in measuring land. The apostles were appointed to places by Him who knew where they might be best employed.
(1) Sometimes the direction was supernatural, as when Peter was taught by a vision and Paul by a man of Macedonia. Sometimes the Spirit of God spoke in an audible voice (Acts 8:29).
(2) In other cases —
(a) A strong impression was made upon the mind, as when Paul was "pressed in the spirit" to preach Christ in Corinth.
(b) They were directed by what appeared the most effectual means of promoting their great work. Thus Paul, in one of his journeys, purposed to return through Macedonia, and oftentimes to visit Rome.
(c) The peculiar moral wretchedness and want of some particular people affected them (Acts 17:16).
(d) They were led by the spirit of enterprise and experiment, and concluded from their success that the line had been stretched out.
2. These views are of importance from their connection with modern efforts. Too long have Christians dozed upon the pillow of lukewarmness, waiting to be roused to action by a miraculous summons.
(1) Our duty is as extensive as theirs. The command, "Go ye into all the world," etc., has never been repealed.
(2) Have we no men "pressed in spirit" as the apostles were? What about those Moravians who went into the West Indies, to sell themselves as slaves, that they might preach to them? Did not God then stretch out their line? What about Carey and Dr. Coke?
(3) Did the first preachers meet with men like Gaius, zealous to encourage their labours? The revival of this disposition in the present day is another proof that our line is extending. Tens of thousands are ready to assist the mission work by their prayers and contributions.
(4) Did the apostle consider the sight of the superstitions of Athens a call to preach Jesus? The circumstance that the state of the heathen world is brought before us is our call to the same work.
(5) Did the apostles see in opportunities of access the hand of God stretching out their line? By what authority do we put a different construction upon the openings which are everywhere presented to us? Where have we no access? Does commerce see her lines extending in so many directions, and shall we be so blind as not to see that she marks the track which Christian zeal is to follow?
(6) Did the apostles contemplate their successes as the proof that God had directed their progress and assigned them their work? Where have modern missionaries laboured without substantial proofs of this kind?
III. THE COMPASSIONATE REGARD OF THE APOSTLE FOR THOSE NATIONS WHICH WERE NOT VISITED BY THE LIGHT OF CHRISTIANITY. His line had stretched as far as Corinth; and he now looks with anticipation into larger fields. And why? Because he knew their moral condition and subsequent danger, and that the gospel would save thousands who would not be saved without it. This is the case in regard to heathen nations now. What they were in the apostolic age they are now, and they ought to excite equal regards, They are regions of —
1. Darkness. That is so dense that the plainest morals are confounded, and the only way of reconciliation hidden.
2. Vain, inefficient superstitions. Many are ridiculous, but they have been laughed at too long, and we ought now to weep over them. They offer sacrifices which leave sin unatoned; they call on Baal, but he hears them not; they purify the body, but the polluted spirit retains all its foulness (Isaiah 44:20). Do we laugh at the ravings of lunacy? Do we scoff at the stumbles of the blind? Who, then, would not give light to them that sit in moral darkness, and wisdom to those who have no spiritual understanding?
3. Diabolical dominion (Romans 1:29-31).
4. Misery. "Happy is the people that have the Lord for their God." Change the God and you reverse the effect.
IV. THE MANNER IN WHICH THE APOSTLE CONNECTS HIS MISSIONARY ENTERPRISES WITH THE CO-OPERATION OF CHRISTIAN CHURCHES (ver. 15).
1. The apostle supposes that the Corinthians were equally bound with him to the duty of enlarging the sphere of evangelical labour. We collect from this that as soon as a church is established in the faith, it is to become co-operative in exertions to spread the kingdom of Christ. As soon as its own lamp is trimmed, it is to be held forth to direct the steps of others.
2. But by what means can this enlargement be granted by you?
(1) By your friendly and affectionate feelings towards Christian missionaries. The word "enlarged" also signifies to extol, to praise. The missionary spirit ought to be held in high esteem. Can we more effectually damp the holy ardour by which it is characterised than by treating it with lightness and coldness?
(2) By considering the cause your own. You should identify yourselves with it.
(3) By your prayers.
(4) By your counsels and contributions. In these respects the first Christians were "fellow-helpers to the truth"; and they have left us an example.
Parallel VersesKJV: But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you.